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SCIENCE

All About Stardome Observatory & Planetarium

Monday 15 February 2016, 3:34PM
By Beckie Wright
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Stardome and its team have been sharing a love of space from its premises in Auckland’s One Tree Hill Domain since 1967.  A place of exploration, research and sharing of knowledge, Stardome has been regularly open for public viewing evenings and daytime visits for school trips ever since. In 1997, New Zealand’s first and still largest Planetarium theatre was constructed and opened on the site.

In 1997, as a result of an ambitious vision from the Observatory Trustees and Management, following extensive public and private fundraising and with assistance from Auckland Council, New Zealand’s first Planetarium theatre was constructed and opened on the site, and the Auckland Observatory was renamed Stardome Observatory and Planetarium. Since this day it has remained a facility for people of all ages and interests to enjoy.

Stardome’s rich history started in 1948, when the Auckland Astronomical Society began fundraising for a public observatory in Auckland. By 1956 they had significant funds, including a substantial bequest from Mrs Edith Winstone Blackwell for the purchase of a telescope for public use. The Society formed the Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust Board to build on these initial funds and provide for the construction and management of a new observatory.

In 1960 One Tree Hill Borough Council provided a 21-year lease, which has been subsequently extended, for a site in One Tree Hill Domain which is where the Observatory and Planetarium operates from today. In March 1967 the Observatory opened without a Planetarium, as at this stage the Auckland Museum was operating a Planetarium which had been donated by the Farmers Trading Company in 1958. The Planetarium at the Museum closed in 1989, allowing the Observatory the opportunity to build a replacement Planetarium. Fundraising was undertaken with a clear vision to provide the country with the best facility possible.

Nearly $3 million was raised for the project, with major funding coming from the Lotteries Commission, the ASB Community Trust and a loan from Auckland City Council; many donations were also received from the public of Auckland. The new planetarium and associated facilities opened in February 1997 and remains the largest and most advanced in New Zealand.

The Zeiss star projector and panorama slide projectors were replaced in 2008 with a fully digitised system from Evans & Sutherland. The major fundraising effort also included upgrades and refurbishment of the seating and projection screen in the Planetarium. Stardome now provides the Auckland region and New Zealand with leading-edge planetarium technology coupled with expert personalised assistance from their team of astronomy educators and presenters.

In 2010 Stardome Trustees and Management embarked on an upgrade inside its premises building interactive displays and exhibits housing materials from space and the new foyer displays and exhibits were opened in September 2010 and add another dimension to the visitor experience. Their mission is to teach and promote the science of astronomy and the Stardome is able to offer visitors the experience of learning together with entertainment in a planetarium environment. Visitors are also able to view the night sky through smaller telescopes guided by knowledgeable volunteers.

For more information please visit the website at http://stardome.org.nz/about-us/who-we-are/ .